How Dropbox works with Backblaze cloud backup

It’s important to understand the differences in cloud-based file sync and backup services, so you can make sure your data is as safe as possible. In my latest blog post on Backblaze, I take a look at one of the most popular sync services, Dropbox: How Dropbox works with Backblaze cloud backup. While you can back up files after a fashion with Dropbox, there are limitations you need to be aware of.

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After we posted this, Ben McCarthy responded with a pithy tweet that I thought really framed the issue well.

How to add Pixelmator’s new Retouch extension to Photos

Pixelmator has added an extension that enable you to retouch photos using Pixelmator tools inside of Apple’s Photos app. The new feature lets you use Pixelmator’s image editing engine to improve images without disrupting your Photos workflow. Pixelmator 3.5 was released this week, and the update is available to download from the Mac App Store.

There are a lot of great changes in 3.5, including a new smart Quick Selection tool, new Magnetic Selection tool, efficiency and performance improvements for El Capitan and much more. New retouching tools work with Apple’s Photos app.

Photos’ support for third-party app extensions lets you to make changes to your photos without leaving the Photos app itself. The functionality you get is a subset of the full app, designed to help you make quick changes to your photos without disrupting the Photos workflow. Pixelmator already had extension support, but the new Retouch extension adds Repair, Clone, Light, Color, Soften and Sharpen tools.


Apple leaves you in control of extensions’ connectivity to your Mac. Even after you’ve updated Pixelmator, you still need to tell your Mac you want it to use the new features. Follow these steps to activate the new functionality.

To enable Pixelmator extensions in OS X

  1. Download and install Pixelmator 3.5 or later from the Mac App Store (link above).
  2. Click on the  menu.
  3. Select System Preferences.Sys pref
  4. Click on Extensions.Screen Shot 2016 05 26 at 9 02 46 AM
  5. Underneath All, make sure the Pixelmator Retouch extension is checked (you can check the other ones if you want too).Pixelmator extensions
  6. Close Extensions. When you open Photos, you should see the new Retouch extension available. (Pixelmator already supported Distort). Click the checkbox to enable the new feature.

How to update your AirPort networking hardware

If you have an Apple AirPort Extreme base station, an Apple Time Capsule or an AirPort Express networking device, you should probably check to make sure it’s running the latest firmware. Apple this week released new firmware for all of its 802.11n and 802.11ac-based network routers – that goes back 7 years. The update “improves the stability and performance of your base station,” according to Apple.

Specific changes include: 

  • Fixes an issue which may prevent communication between clients on the same network
  • Improves performance with an extended guest network
  • Addresses potential naming conflicts with Bonjour Sleep Proxy

Not sure if your AirPort Extreme, AirPort Express or Time Capsule is up to date? Here’s how you can check using your Mac.

To check your AirPort base station firmware

  1. Click the Spotlight icon in your menu bar (it looks like a magnifying glass).
  2. Type “airport utility.” Spotlight will find the AirPort Utility. Double-click to launch the app. (Alternately, find AirPort Utility inside the Utilities folder on your Mac.)
  3. If a firmware update is available for your device, it should pop up with a notification badge to let you know. Click on the device’s icon to get more information.Update
  4. Click on the Update button to download the new firmware and begin the update process.Updatebutton
  5. During the update, the network device will be unavailable. Click the Continue button to proceed.Continue

The update should download and install, and the device should reset automatically.

Feature bloat and the tyranny of choice: Why I like distraction free writing tools

Research has shown over and over again that people want more options but then don’t want to deal with having to choose more options. This explains why app developers encumber their products with “feature bloat” and why we complain about it. Why we continue to abuse ourselves is a different story entirely, of course.

I admit to occasional cantankerous social media rambling about the good old days, when I play the role of the cranky old fart who preferred it before computers and smartphones were ubiquitous; when the home computer market largely catered to hobbyists, most of whom were “in the biz” in their day jobs. It’s an act, or perhaps more than anything, a punchline to a joke. Because I really don’t believe we were better off 30 years ago.

Things were simpler, of course, and the pace wasn’t quite as crazy as it is now, but ease of use and sophistication of tools, communications, operating systems, and other ancillary systems have improved so dramatically that it’s pretty incredible. The things I can do with my current computer and smartphone would be unimaginable to the 15 year old who fired up a 512K Mac all those years ago.

A few weeks ago I spent a bit of time running classic Mac OS and application software in emulation on my current Mac. It was a challenge and a lot of fun. My goal was to reacquaint myself with my favorite old-school Mac word processor, T/Maker’s WriteNow. WriteNow was developed for the original Mac and was a favorite of early Mac users straight up until the Mac’s transition to the PowerPC architecture. I’ve written about it before.


Working with WriteNow helped me understand one modern trend a bit better: “Distraction free” writing tools. I spend most of my time these days in Ulysses, which has the added benefit of some nifty iCloud sync features and multi-platform support that lets me run it from any device I happen to have at the moment. I also frequently dabble with 71 Square’s Focused (which started life as Typed before Realmac reinvented Typed as a blogging service). They and other similar apps enable the writer to enforce some discipline by offering an environment that simply encourages a focus on the act of writing. If you find modern word processors like Microsoft Word and Apple Pages to be too cumbersome and intrusive, as I do, distraction-free writing tools can be of enormous benefit.

Screen Shot 2016 05 25 at 11 09 18 AM

In some ways, they’re a real throwback. Using that emulated Mac Plus with WriteNow provided me with an almost purely distraction-free environment. The small screen, streamlined feature set and limited operating system capabilities enforced a discipline of use. You couldn’t meander off and surf the web for a few hours, hop on Facebook or send instant messages.

It’s a bit like the punchline in the Simpsons episode Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment: “To alcohol!,” says Homer. “The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems!”

Constantly evolving and improving technology has changed the way we use computers – we’re at once able to do enormously more sophisticated things with them than ever before, but that comes at a price of increasing intricacy and complexity in a way that makes the technology no longer as user-friendly as it was before.

Fortunately, developers of distraction-free writing tools understand that sometimes less is more.

Apple’s internal style guide makes the news and we’re dumber for it

Apple VP Phil Schiller made tech blog headlines for a recent tongue in cheek discussion with journalists on Twitter about how to pluralize Apple product names. It’s no surprise that Apple has an internal style guide it uses to make sure that references to its own products are consistent; it’s also no surprise that in a system filled with individual human beings that use their own interpretation of language to communicate, that even Apple is occasionally inconsistent in its implementation.

I got kind of fed up and posted this on Twitter:

I watched this story unfold with a fair degree of irritation, and it finally struck me as to why.

It’s because my role as a tech journalist, I lost track of the number of times that a well-meaning, inevitably junior PR rep would contact me to let me know that I’d misused their client’s name or trademark: it’s intercapped, or it’s all capitalized, or the i at the start, in the middle or at the end is always lower case, etc.

As a blogger and magazine writer, I’m beholden to my publication’s own style guide – or whatever style standard we’ve agreed to (like AP or Chicago), before whatever mishigas your marketing department has come up with.

How (and why) to rotate disks with Time Machine

Apple’s Time Machine makes it easy to restore from a catastrophic drive failure, and also gives you a way to restore deleted files or older versions of files you’ve been working on. The vast majority of us using Time Machine have a regular hard drive to back up to.

We all know that hard drives fail, unfortunately. What can you do? One solution is to rotate your backup disks. (Another, of course, is to use a cloud backup service like Backblaze.)

Time machine multiple drives

Time Machine handles multiple drives pretty easily, but just in case you’re confused about how to do it, I recently posted this step-by-step guide to help walk you through the process.

How to use multiple hard drives with Time Machine

A trip down memory lane

David Gewirtz recently posted a link to an old television interview with Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin. The fantasy author swears by his DOS-based computer running WordStar 4.0, a word processor that was released in 1987. It seems anachronistic, but many of us, not just writers and other creatives, display really obsessive compulsive tendencies when it comes to their tools of choice.

I’ve adapted to the modern age – I write most of what I’m working on in Markdown-compatible text editors these days, and really love Ulysses – an app from The Soulmen which runs on iOS and OS X, and makes it really easy to sync between devices via iCloud. But just for fun, I spent a bit of time this morning getting refamiliarized with my favorite word processor from the “classic” Mac OS days: WriteNow.

Published by T/Maker, WriteNow is a contemporary of Martin’s WordStar 4.0 – it came out in the mid-1980s after the Mac was introduced. Anyway, I got WriteNow working in emulation on my Mac this morning and took it for a spin.


What’s amused me the most is how hard-wired my muscle memory is. It took all of about two minutes to get reacquainted with the keyboard commands to do everything I need to. It tempts me to get started on that ten part space opera book series I’ve been planning. I mean, if a three decade old word processor is good enough for the Game of Thrones guy…